2019: 4 Trends to Watch in Plant-Based
Anthony “Maverick” Tabanji is COO of Sprouted Ventures, a market strategy collective that helps emerging plant-based meat and dairy brands drive velocity, scale distribution and find funding.
An incredible industry. Significant global impact. A countdown of four trends. Check them out below!
4 - Nutritional Fortification
It seems brands are realizing that consumers have increasing nutritional awareness. Taste, texture, and functionality are of course the most desired attributes; however, health and nutrition have been in the spotlight, especially with the recent “good-for-you” push in the media. Brands are beginning to notice, and their product lines are reflecting it.
Silk has been our favorite example of this so far, with their almond/cashew milk with pea protein fortification. The plant-based alternative gives a whopping 10 grams of protein per serving (1 cup), which is 2g protein more than a serving of animal-based milk. It’s not branded as a “pea milk”, which might still be quite a bit more foreign than almond or cashew to the average consumer. It’s actually branded and positioned as something that this consumer would already know, but with the nutritional value they’re beginning to expect.
A big win for Silk here, and we hope to see more of this nutritional fortification as more commoditization continues to happen.
3 - Mainstream Positioning and Packaging ("Accidental" Positioning of Healthy / Sustainable/ Vegan Attributes)
Yes, there are many incredible impact goals that exist in the plant-based food initiative (i.e. animal welfare, global sustainability, personal health); however, the conceptualization of a broader market opportunity than only vegans and vegetarians is beginning to surface. The V&V groups are the obvious leaders in plant-based product acceptance, so you can be sure they will find your product. But what about everyone else?
Mainstream consumers, including “flexitarians”, are over 90% of the global market. This is the group that can significantly affect the scale and true impact of your product and brand, and this has resulted in an increased brand awareness of alignment with the average mainstream shopper.
As mentioned; taste, texture, and functionality lead the charge in consumer attribute desires. Therefore, it might make the most sense to lead your product positioning with these. That means not only using language that resonates, but also ensuring the product’s packaging, functionality, and overall positioning integrate seamlessly into this average consumer's everyday life. For example, there are numerous plant-based dairy brands that are releasing “barista” lines, that are meant to be poured into coffee and other hot beverages. The packaging, language, and branding all communicate clearly what it is, how it is to be used, and even what animal-based products it’s similar to.
Without this awareness of how a mainstream consumer might perceive your product, there might be segmentation that happens too early in the consumer’s decision-making process. Remember, trial is one of the most important parts of the consumer sales cycle! So do your best to get everyone to try it.
2 - Clean Label Products
Along similar lines of consumers’ nutritional awareness, there has been an increasing importance being placed on “clean label” products. We’ve been seeing brands making a conscious effort to remove things that consumers might not recognize, or even perceive as negative. This might include things like stabilizers, preservatives, additives, and even soy, which has had interesting media presence as of late.
This trend also seems to be in its early stages, but we see it becoming even more of a driving factor in consumer decision-making as commoditization accelerates within the space.
1 - Creative Use of Plant-Based Ingredients
Because of these newly accelerated initiatives of clean label and nutritionally-sound products, brands have been getting increasingly creative with their types and sources of ingredients. From every type of legume, to aquafaba (the water left over after chickpea cooking/processing), there is no shortage of new and innovative solutions brands are finding to create ideal product attributes. This trend is an exciting one, as there is no telling what might show up next. These brands are leading the charge in changing the way we think about healthy, delicious, and functional foods.